Game of Thrones 2 (2012)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Never get too attached to anyone in G.R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series. You may find yourself mourning the loss of your favorite characters, while waiting eons for the ones you hate to die off... if they ever do die off. Some of them seem to live on indefinitely, just to spite us. The second season of HBO's take on bringing the series to life on the small screen deviates more from the series than the first season, but is still an entertaining ten hours.

  

The king is dead. Long live the contenders for the throne!

 

As the “son” of the king, the young and sadistic Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is the major claimant, but word has spread that he is not the heir to the throne but rather the result of an incestuous relationship between his mother (a scene-stealing Lena Heady) and her brother. His eldest uncle, Stannis (Stephen Dillane), is determined to take it from him with the assistance of his priestess advisor, Melisandre (Carice van Houten). She promises him the throne in exchange for certain favors, an agreement that greatly concerns his loyal friend Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham).

    

In the north, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his armies fight their way southward to reclaim his sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) and avenge their father's death, but no word has been heard on the fate of their little sister, Arya (Maisie Williams). His crippled brother Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is in command of Winterfell and troubled by visions of direwolves and ravens. The sinister appearance of a red comet in the sky also proves troubling. Only Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) knows what it signifies, for she travels with three newly hatched dragons, thought extinct for centuries.

 

Meanwhile, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is held captive by Robb Stark, leaving his elder brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to take on the position of the “King’s Hand” over Joffrey in the absence of his grandfather (Charles Dance). And the ever-scheming, untrustworthy “Littlefinger” (Aidan Gillen) has been given the task to find Arya… at all costs.

 

Season two has its ups and downs. The ups include some scene-stealing (and Emmy-worthy) performances from major and minor players alike. One of the highlights of this year's offering are the scenes between young Maisie Williams and veteran actor Charles Dance. Though we are meant to hate his character, it never quite happens ... and part of the reason is the shine he takes to Arya, without ever knowing who she is. The banter between them, as he takes her in much like a doting but stern grandfather, is the stuff brilliance is made of. Likewise could be said of Stephen Dillane's take on Stannis, a figure in the books cold and unwelcoming but that becomes fascinating on screen, thanks to Dillane's somewhat sarcastic take on him. Alas, one of the "downs" this season is that we don't get to see nearly enough of him -- or, for that matter, of Natalie Dormer in her role as one of the new leading ladies. Daenerys also suffers from a lack of screen time, while characters I had no interest in and happen to dislike featured heavily in several episodes.

  

It's hard to pin down what makes Game of Thrones work so well. Is it the characters we love to hate? The dread of waiting to see which one of them is going to die next? But, and I cannot emphasize this enough, there are times when HBO seems determined to make the series more about "adult entertainment" than storytelling, and the writing suffers as a result. I don't think toning down the content would hurt it any. In fact, it might kick up the class factor a notch.

  

  

Sexual Content:

If there is a woman around, she has her clothes off. All but one of the episodes have nudity in them of some kind, sometimes in a sadistic light (such as when Joffrey, rather than taking advantage of the whores his uncle has sent to him, forces them to abuse one another), others in a creepy light (such as the fully nude scene of a woman giving birth to a shadow-creature); all but two of them have sexual content that leaves nothing to the imagination. Among consensual scenes is one of Sansa nearly being raped. Conversation revolves around the fact that she has started her period.

     

Language:

Among the common uses of "whore," "bastard," and so on are frequent uses of c**t and f**k.

  

Violence:

Includes dismemberment, explosions, implications of infant homicide, and the occasional severed limb.
 

Other:

Emphasis is placed on the gods, and Melisandre calls upon them to bring Stannis the victory. She convinces him to impregnate her with a shadow creature who is then an assassin. Elsewhere, references are made to dragons and their magic, and wizards.